Man. Sometimes it just seems like this world is going to pieces.
If you’ve watched the news at all, you know it’s a jungle out there. The debate on health care reform has reached fever pitch, with angry protesters decrying “death panels,” “socialism,” and finally, my favorite, “I want my America back.” Oh geez. In the waning months of my time here at the BC REU program, mostly as a result of my relocation to sleeping on the living room couch, but also because it’s important: I’ve started tuning in almost nightly to MSNBC’s battery of cable news shows. Beginning with Hardball, on to Countdown, and finally sometimes The Rachel Maddow Show, I sit there and soak in thew news.
Sure: MSNBC has its slant; I’ll give you that. Chris Matthews gets a little absurd at times, but I think he means well enough. Olbermann and Maddow, however, I really admire. They’re as close as you can get on cable news to actual ‘reporting’ with regular fact-checks, debunking, and sources. The added bonus is that they call out insanity and absurdity when they see it. Sure, it carries a liberal flavor, but I know that going into it (I also maintain that such a ‘bias’ is more correct). In spite of that, I’ve found it fascinating to watch this slugfest over health care evolve. Morbid, perhaps, to watch the political dialog degraded into shouting matches, but informative nonetheless.
A few main points I want to throw out here:
Conservatives Have Finally Jumped the Shark
I am really surprised that it’s gone this bad. Sarah Palin’s rhetoric of “death panels” is the ultimate low so far. Right or wrong, that woman has a responsibility to the people she speaks to, and using words like that only scares them. She half-assed some retraction after the fact, but the damaged has already been done.
Next: Glen Beck calling the president a “racist with a deep-seated hatred of white people”… Yes: white people like his mother, grandparents, and all those millions of white people that voted for him. To continue to argue that this man has even a shred of credibility is beyond the bounds of the possible. Olbermann mentioned tonight that many large companies (Proctor and Gamble, Geico, and Men’s Warehouse to name a few) have removed their advertising from slots during Beck’s program. Good for corporate America: they may be profit-driven, but way to wake up and smell the crazy.
Finally: Health Care Extremists take it too far. Swastikas slapped up on a Georgia congressman’s office sign, Senator’s hung in effigy, death threats, guns being brought to town halls. Geez. Kinda makes you miss the Birthers, no? They were insane in an adorable-old-senile-grandparent kindof way; this is less cute and more oh-geez-somebody-is-going-to-get-their-ass-shot type of situation. Now, I know that this is a tiny, tiny group of people doing these incredibly inappropriate things. By no means is this a reasonable litmus for the rest of the health care opposition.
But if the opposition wants to be taken seriously, they need to speak up. And when I say “speak up” I don’t mean “shout.” Certainly I can respect an impassioned individual standing up for what they believe in, but I can’t respect some idiot (YES, they are idiots) who simply screams to be heard. If you’re so upset you could blow a gasket, do it in the privacy of your own home. Once you’ve got that taken care of, read for heaven’s sake. If, instead, we were watching clips of people citing portions of the bills in livid sparring with representatives wherein the congresspeople were left dumbfounded by their accusers, wouldn’t that be a hell of a lot more impressive?
You don’t just get to yell “socialism” and have that count as a legitimate critique. (Me? I don’t really even think that’s a dirty or offensive word, and so it would be effectively useless if I were the one being shouted at. We know this blog post essentially renders such a point moot, but still…) I’d also like to hear such critics propose alternatives. If the current ideas are so bad, then the opposition movements, the organizations behind them, as well as the senators they have holding up the process need to put forth a better idea. As crazy and imposing as they seem, these people have put zero real offense on the board.
Democrats Have Dropped the Ball; Seem Unaware of Their Position
First, you’ve got to admit the Democrats have a pretty rough spot: Four committees in the United States Congress have now passed health care legislation:
-House Education and Labor Committee
-House Energy and Commerce Committee
-Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
-Senate Finance Committee
They aren’t the same; eventually they’ll be cut down, hacked up, and synthesized into a single uber-bill that will represent an amalgamation of the four. But for the moment, they’re just all kindof floating around. Thus, it makes it hard to defend a plan, bill, or system of care that hasn’t even been enumerated yet. The president is being pretty lenient in letting the Democrats do whatever they need to in order to get their bills out of committee. This flexibility comes at a price though, because it makes him look like he has no idea what he wants out of this damn mess.
We should have known this would happen though. The legislative process is no great mystery. All of these steps are normal, and are progressing as they should… The notion that this was going to get done before the recess was overly optimistic, especially in light of the desired amount of “bi-partisan-ness” that the Dems seem to want on this thing. News Flash: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The terms “bipartisan support” and “quick passage” might as well be mutually exclusive, and somebody in the White House should know this.
‘Bipartisan’ Should Have Worked
Seriously, it should have. Health Care: people should have it. DONE! Not so much. And at the first sign of resistance on this one, the Democrats should have pulled the ripcord and thrown the Republicans out of the airplane. Game over. Obama won, with a mandate no less. I saw a man yelling at poor Arlen Specter, bless his double-crossing-hide (all love, Al!), complaining that this was all moving ‘so gosh darn quickly! What in the sam hill is all the rush about?!’ I paraphrase slightly, but his argument was a temporal one. While, on the one hand, the before-recess goal might have been a little lofty, this argument is stupid.
One of the things we frequently hear the government railed for is that they “don’t really do anything but bureaucracy.” Now that the controlling party is DOING THINGS though, they’re getting in trouble. Sorry, kids, but that’s just the way it goes. When you win, and the voters of this nation hand you the reigns, you do what they elected you to do: Stuff. In this case, that Stuff is Democrat-flavored. Complain all you want, but that’s the way this is going to work.
So Democrats: You Have to Do Stuff.
You just gotta. Were I you, make it clear that the Republican’s have certain select points at which to provide requests, demand compromises, and hear their voices heard. Once that’s happened, it’s Go Time. Don’t look back. You do what you can to include everyone, but at the point that they’re slapping you across the face, that’s it. They lost. You won. Do what you have to do.
And For God’s Sake, Include the Public Option
Otherwise there will end up being no point to all this madness. That’s the litmus by which I’ll judge the success or failure of Democrats on this is if they have the brains and the stones to push through the public option in the face of widespread opposition. If Americans are all really that upset, they’ll pick new people at the midterms, and that’s the way it goes. If they’re really hacked, they’ll even repeal the damn thing. FINE. That’s the way this contraption is supposed to work. [Even in the face of taking a hit on this, Dems shouldn’t fear: GOP fails to capitalize; fails to calm their radicals; fails to provide alternatives; etc.]
Olbermann is the Man
I really love this guy. Countdown has been my recent addiction, and it reminded me of easily one of the funniest things I ever had the benefit to see on SNL. I’ll close with this to lighten the mood, lest I go crazy from Health Care Reform Stress…